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Marshall Goldsmith on Personal Values

August 19, 2010
Marshall Goldsmith
Cover of "Mojo: How to Get It, How to Kee...

Cover via Amazon

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority in helping successful leaders get even better – by achieving positive, lasting change in behavior: for themselves, their people and their teams.

MOJO was released in February 2010.  It is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal top ten best-seller – and the Shanghai Daily #1 business book in China.  It is already scheduled to be translated into 14 languages.

In November 2009 Dr. Goldsmith was recognized as one of the fifteen most influential business thinkers in the world in the bi-annual study sponsored by The (London) Times and Forbes.  The American Management Association named Marshall as one of 50 great thinkers and leaders who have influenced the field of management over the past 80 years.  He is one of only two educators who have won the Institute of Management Studies Lifetime Achievement Award. Major business press acknowledgments include: BusinessWeek – most influential practitioners in the history of  leadership development, Wall Street Journal – top ten executive educators, Forbes – five most-respected executive coaches, Leadership Excellence – top five thinkers on leadership, Economic Times (India) – top CEO coaches of America, Economist (UK) – most credible executive advisors in the new era of business and Fast Company – America’s preeminent executive coach.

RY: How have your personal values influenced your career success?

MG: My personal values have a great deal to do with my career. I’m a Buddhist. My coaching philosophy is based upon basic Buddhist teachings. It is hard to differentiate between my personal values and my career because my career is greatly influenced by my personal values.

RY: How do you use Buddhism in your coaching?

MG: Part of my coaching is called Feed Forward.  It is derived from the Buddhist principle that you should only do what I teach if it works for you. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t do it. Ask people for input and consider their response a gift. Don’t talk back. Learn from everyone around you. Don’t promise to do everything. Do what you can. Do what works for you. Stick with it. Follow up, follow up, follow up. Get better.

Pick the right coaching clients and your coaching practice will always work. Pick the wrong coaching clients and your coaching practice will never work. With coaching it’s all about your own ego.  The biggest problem with coaches is ego, including me. We want people to be better so we can feel better about ourselves. And a very Buddhist concept is getting rid of your ego. To get rid of your ego, you need to be helpful and realize how you screwed up. And you’ll probably get alot better.

RY: It seems to be easier for clients to accept your Buddhist methods because you only get paid if the client sees results.

MG: Yes, no results, no pay. Most coaches get paid for two bad variables: A) How much time did I spend? Bad measure. And B) Do my clients like me? Bad measure. I don’t get paid because my clients like me, nor do I get paid because I spend my time. I get paid because I get results. The key cost [for clients] in hiring me is their time. The last thing CEOs want is to waste their time. Their time is worth far more than my salary.

RY: I was interested to read about your career transition from customizing 360 assessments to management consulting.

MG: Well, it was the best mentoring I ever got, and the mentoring was from Dr. Paul Hersey. He told me I was too good at what I did, I made too much money, and I would run around doing the same thing over and over again, but I wasn’t developing into the person I could be. And for 10 or 12 years he was right; that’s exactly what I did. It’s very hard not to fall into the trap of inertia. My three favorite lines in the book, Mojo, are “Our default response in life is not to experience happiness; our default response in life is not to experience meaning; our default response in life is to experience inertia”. We all want to know where we’re going, so it’s very hard to break out of inertia.

RY: We don’t often hear prominent management consultants promoting their religion. Why are you choosing to do it?

MG: I think we’re afraid to be rejected. Even me saying I’m a Buddhist, I’m sure people would be afraid to say that. They think, “OMG, I must sound weird or esoteric” or “I’m afraid no one is going to like me because I say I’m a Buddhist”. It has not hurt my career. I’m very open that I’m a Buddhist and that I learned Buddhist philosophy.

RY: How can people learn more about your management coaching?

MG: If you go to and go to Free Resources, I give everything away. All my materials can be copied, shared, or downloaded.

RY:  And generosity is a very Buddhist concept.

MG: You know what? I called Buddha and asked “Should I send you a commission?” (laughter). He said  “No, don’t worry about it.”

© 2010  Ryan E. Yip

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